Council infrastructure contributions under review

By Staff Writer

The New South Wales Planning Minister, Kristina Keneally, has announced the first results of a review into local council infrastructure contributions plans.

The Government appointed contributions review panel examined the plans of councils applying to exceed the $20,000 levy threshold, introduced by the State Government in December.

Keneally said of the 152 councils in NSW, 34 had plans over $20,000 per lot and of these 28 applied to charge above the threshold, a further five councils voluntarily reduced their contributions and one council plan was still in draft stage.

“The review highlighted inconsistencies and complexities of both local infrastructure funding and planning across NSW,” Keneally said.

“No two councils use the same approach to determine contributions.”

The first round of review included eleven councils, four of which had demonstrated savings for relevant plans. The Minister decided to apply the threshold to one council and gave six councils an exemption to reducing their levies.

Keneally said the review provided an opportunity for state and local government to work with the development industry in addressing issues of infrastructure provision and housing affordability.

The president of the Shires Association of NSW, Bruce Miller, said the review confirmed what local government had been advocating.

“This review has affirmed the principle of development contributions and their importance for local councils and their communities,” Cr Miller said.

“Contributions made by developers are crucial to ensure our communities are provided with the essential services and facilities – from roads and footpaths to community and youth centres, libraries, parks and playgrounds.

“We’re pleased to see that the review process adopted by the Planning Department appears to be a genuine one.”

Cr Miller said local government was pleased that the State Government had chosen to adopt a $20,000 threshold instead of an absolute cap.

But according to developers, levies are still too high and should be capped.

The Urban Taskforce’s chief executive, Aaron Gadiel, said high council levies had led to a “massive shortfall” in new home construction.

“We’ve seen attempts by Baulkham Hills Council to slap a $50,000 levy on each new home in North Kellybille,” Gadiel said.

“Pittwater Council is currently levying $75,000 on each new home in Warriewood Valley, with an increase to $90,000 planned for 2011.

“We’re please to hear that five councils have voluntarily reduced their contributions below $20,000 per home lot…but there’s no denying that local council levels are still too high in too many areas.”

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